EU to bypass Trump administration after Paris climate agreement pullout
Brussels rejects Trump’s offer to renegotiate landmark deal, as global politicians, business leaders and US state governors criticise president.
The European Union has rejected Donald Trump’s offer to renegotiate the Paris climate agreement and pledged instead to bypass Washington to work with US business leaders and state governors to implement the historic accord’s commitments.
Less than 24 hours after the US president announced his decision to withdraw from the 2015 agreement and strike a new, less ambitious deal with the rest of the world, Brussels declared its outright refusal to engage in such talks.
EU officials will instead cut out the White House to deal directly with the US states and major corporations, many of whom have already pledged to live by the terms forged in Paris.
In Britain, Theresa May faced criticism for not signing up to a joint declaration by Germany, France and Italy in opposition to the US move. A Downing Street source defended the prime minister, pointing out that other countries including Japan and Canada had not signed up to the letter either.
In 2015, nearly 200 countries agreed in Paris to curb greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent the runaway climate change that would occur should temperatures spiral 2C or more above the pre-industrial era.
In a worst case scenario, the US withdrawal could add 0.3C to global temperatures by the end of the century, the UN World Meteorological Organisation said.
Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, described Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris pact as a big mistake, but said the fight against climate change would continue with or without the US.
“Strong transatlantic ties are far more important and far more durable than the latest unfortunate decisions of the new administration,” Tusk said, as he addressed a joint press conference with the Chinese prime minister, Li Keqiang, at the end of an EU-China summit in Brussels.
“China and Europe have demonstrated solidarity with future generations and responsibility for the whole planet,” Tusk added, in reference to a joint EU-China statement that vowed to “step up” efforts on global warming, including the raising of $100bn a year by 2020 to help poorer countries cut emissions.
Li pointedly told reporters that China believed in abiding by international rules. “There have been changes in the international situation and there have been rising uncertainties and destabilising factors and in such circumstances it is important for China-EU relations to become more stable”, he said.
Miguel Arias Cañete, the European commissioner for climate action, said the global agreement would not be allowed to fall at the whim of a domestic election. “The Paris agreement is fit for purpose,” the Spanish politician said, gripping a copy of the document that 195 countries have pledged to support. “The Paris agreement is here to stay. The 29 articles of this Paris agreement are not to be renegotiated. They are to be implemented. That’s what the EU will do.”
He added: “The fight against climate change cannot depend on the result of elections in one country of another. When a country signs an international agreement it has to fulfil its commitments. There will be new administrations. I’m pretty sure President Trump hasn’t read the articles of this treaty. There is nothing to renegotiate here.”
Senior EU officials said they had been pleased by the reaction of the leaders of corporate America and the federal states, with whom they would now work, in a remarkable example of Trump’s isolation on the world stage.
The US president’s decision had been met with a chorus of disapproval from blue-chip companies including Facebook, Apple, Ford and Microsoft.
A number of the governors of US states have also vowed to ignore Washington. The mayor of Pittsburgh hit back against Trump, who had told reporters on Thursday: “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”
Bill Peduto wrote on Twitter: “Fact: Hillary Clinton received 80% of the vote in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh stands with the world and will follow Paris agreement. As the mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris agreement for our people, our economy and future.”
Jeremy Corbyn accused May of a “dereliction of duty to our country and our planet” for failing to issue a stronger condemnation of Trump, after the PM expressed disappointment on Thursday. The Labour leader told an election rally in York: “Given the chance to present a united front with our international partners, she has instead opted for silence and subservience to Donald Trump.”
The former Labour leader Ed Miliband told the BBC that May was being “weak and feeble and spineless” for not being willing to condemn the US president.
A Downing Street spokesperson said Trump had called May to discuss the decision to withdraw and said the door remained open to future US involvement in the deal.
“She [May] said the Paris agreement provides the right global framework for protecting the prosperity and security of future generations, while keeping energy affordable and secure for our citizens and businesses,” the spokesperson said. “The president made clear that the door remains open to future US involvement in the agreement.”
No other country is yet to show any sign that they intend to ape Trump’s decision to split from the pact, of which only Nicaragua and Syria stand outside. Vladimir Putin said in response to Trump’s announcement that he wanted to “refine” the agreement from within.
Germany’s powerful car industry also claimed that Europe would need to reassess its environmental standards to remain competitive after the US withdrawal.
However, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, showed no signs that her resolve was weakening on the deal, insisting that Trump “can’t and won’t stop all those of us who feel obliged to protect the planet”.
She added the move by the US was “extremely regrettable and that’s putting it very mildly”.
Merkel, speaking at a press conference in Berlin, said Germany would not sway from the goals set out in the Paris agreement. “Nothing can or will stop us,” she said. “The road – there’s no doubt about it – is stony, but I am also convinced of the fact we cannot retrace our steps.”
Paris climate deal: what was agreed and does it matter if US withdraws?
She said there were many other partners willing to work together and was “enthused” by the response from US companies who were supportive of the deal. “We need this Paris agreement in order to save our creation,” she said.
India, despite facing the challenge of meeting the energy needs of millions of people who do not have electricity, firmly stood by the Paris agreement. The energy minister, Piyush Goyal, said: “India’s resolve to take up the leadership of saving the planet from climate change while others abrogate their leadership.”